• Friday, July 19, 2024
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BusinessDay

Interest capitalized: N2,461.33k; Maintenance charge: N5,000.00! This is how your bank robs you!

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I have been shouting for a very long time now, about how our bankers throw all sorts of things in the way of many customers’ progress in the quest to make ‘quick kills’, otherwise known as profits. And it seems not to matter whatsoever in what disguises they do so. Indulgees would recall how I have often made some noise about the nonsense called COT charges. At some point, I suggested that it reminded me of that very unfortunate incident known as cot death. As a matter of fact, COT application in Nigerian banking is robbery by strangulation! This point becomes stronger if you consider that it is irresponsibly applied across different customer-segments, including those for whom a COT charge could bring their balances into negative! Well, maybe not exactly so, but I trust that, if you really looked hard enough, you will find a victim that falls into that negative balance grouping, resulting from punitive COT charges!

I have often wondered (not much different from the Wonder Wonder Wonderer that Femi Kuti sang about) and then asked why banks would not try to move an inch for customers when it comes to these so-called costs. It really doesn’t add up for me. I can understand certain penalties for certain behaviour by an account holder which makes a bank unable to use that customer’s deposits for the purpose of ‘creating money’ (for instance, a penalty for withdrawing more than X times in a month), but I cannot understand why having money put in my account by way of cheque should cost me a dime!

As with everything else, we all live with it. We wallow in it and just continuously turn the other cheek to get more ‘gboosa’ slaps from our banks. We, Nigerians, think the only thing to protest about is government and labour related matters. We don’t seem to be alive to our responsibility of picketing banks and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) over their ‘matter over mind’ (read that for profit over customer) attitudes. They have gone on for years with this hideous COT and even when some banks have advertised certain savings products and promised that it would be COT-free, they suck you in for a while and then slam it ‘gboosa’ on you just almost when it seems like you aren’t looking. And some people wonder why we are high on the corruption index! They would think it is only the massive stealing of money by government officials that make up the parameters for measuring how corrupt our country is. But we know that less transparent behaviours, including cheating customers who you are supposed to make happy, is also part of corruption.

It seems like a national pattern in any case. Everybody, including individuals and organisations, are always looking to have one on you! In Lagos, if you go to Ikota Shopping Complex (not limited to the shops in this complex, actually), you will find a swart of shop madams who have brought products from the Scandinavian founded Ikea, and even when they have forgotten and you can see the low prices on the tags from a UK Ikea store, they will give you a Nigerian price that is capable of giving you a heart attack. If you as much as ask why this astronomical differential (especially if you are someone who is well used to shopping at an Ikea store), you will be told all sorts of Johnbull stories why it had to be that way. Yet, should you search deeper, you are likely to find that these are people who don’t pay taxes, probably didn’t pay import duties and possible brought some of these goods through some corrupt waiver policies because they walk the corridors of power and know one or two persons in corruption laden high places! Phew!

With that related aside out of the way, let me return to bankers and their thieving anti-customer policies. You have your money in your account. At the end of the month, an email statement is sent to you. Your eyes run down the items in the statement. You are checking to see what’s gone out and what’s gone in. You want to be sure neither you nor your bank has cheated the other. Your payments out, drawn on your cheques or the transfers you made all seem okay. The payments into your account either by way of cheques or cash deposits all seem okay too.

But then your eyes are not satisfied yet. They are looking for trouble spots. They think there must be trouble spots. This statement was prepared by Nigerian bankers in a Nigerian bank, so there must be, at least, a trouble spot and your eyes need to find it. Your eyes will like to tell your brain and, indeed, your mind that everything is all right.

You are convinced that your eyes are concerned about what any wrong information not spotted now could do to your mind later. They are worried because if the mind goes then the eyes could start seeing all sorts of things they never bargained for. So they need to be very careful and act responsibly. This is a statement from a Nigerian bank, prepared by Nigerian bankers and anything could go wrong.

And so, once again your eyes comb through the fine details of the statement. As it is sent via an email message, you decide to print it out, increasing the point size of the text so you can see it even more clearly. Yes, that’s what a bank statement from a Nigerian bank does to you. It makes you begin to act as if you are on some octane. This happens to those who really know how they got their money, especially if you are not a politician, not a government contractor, not a civil servant with the power to approve things; especially all sorts of things! Those are people who might not bother to look at the details of their bank statements. They would be contented with just looking at what analysts like to call “headline figures”. And it is always the case that once they are satisfied with what they see in the headline figures they feel good and don’t bother what might have been creamed off their accounts in the name of anything you would like to call it! After all, if you have stolen or earned something through fiddling, you probably wouldn’t bother much except the headline numbers don’t make you happy. Aha! You know yourselves!

At this point, your eyes are beginning to be heavy. But that’s not deterrence to this mission. Then suddenly, your eyes’ tenacity pays off. You can see it clearly. You had glossed over it with a smile when you first saw it. They called it capitalized interest. It’s in CREDIT to you, so you were happy that your bank had given you something. But on the DEBIT side was something they named MAINTENANCE charge. This is serious, you tell yourself. It had to be. It’s what a Yoruba man will see and scream OTI O! An Igbo man would scream MBA NU! A Hausa man – DAN BURU BA! And here’s why they would scream.

You have just found that your bank credited you with a capitalized interest of N2, 461. 33 kobo. It then went on to charge you MAINTENANCE fee of N5,000.00. In other words, you are a net loser to your bank for keeping your money there. Your bank uses your money to do business, makes money. It gives you interest that is lower than the monthly charge it takes from your account. And those at CBN wonder why cashless might still be problematic? They should think again!

 

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